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Nature parks of central Croatia: Medvednica and Zumberak - Samoborsko gorje

Nature parks of central Croatia: Medvednica and Zumberak - Samoborsko gorje

Hidden gems of central Croatia

Croatia has a total of 11 nature parks, well known for their enchanting beauty. We encourage you to visit as many as you can, but if you find yourself in central Croatia, Medvednica and Zumberak are a must see!


Medvednica is often compared to a green giant watching over the capitol of Croatia, Zagreb. It's a very old mountain and was once the home of Neanderthals. But we will get to that in a bit. The mountain is easily accessible and mostly covered with lush vegetation and forests, which is one of the reasons why it's a very popular destination for hikers both from Zagreb as well as from neighbouring counties.

A goal for many hikers, especially the ones that prefer easier routes, is the Queens Well (Kraljicin zdenac), a source of cold water on Medvednica. It's surrounded by a dense forest providing lovely shade during those hot summer days. The well is located at 529m and can be easily reached by hiking trail from Sestinski lagvic.

Another popular destination is Medvedgrad - a medieval fortress built in the 13th century. The idea was that Medvedgrad would protect the citizens from any unwanted attacks, but as it turns out, Medvedgrad was actually never attacked by anyone. Medvedgrad had some notorious rulers, most famous ones were definitely the counts of Celje. The fortress was abandoned during the late 16th century, after an earthquake that hit the area. A reconstruction of some segments began in 1979 and today Medvedgrad fortress is open for tourists and visitors.


There is around 70 known hiking trails on Medvednica that vary in difficulty. To make sure all those hikers have a place to rest, enjoy some home made traditional food and simply breath in the fresh mountain air, Medvednica also has around 15 mountain houses, some of which also offer accommodation. The highest peak of Medvednica is Sljeme, accessible by car, bus or by foot. On top of its 1033 m you will find the TV tower as well as 2 hotels. Sljeme is also one of the hosts of the Alpine Skiing World Cup with its slalom race better know as the Snow Queen Trophy.

For adrenaline lovers Medvednica also offers circular bike routes that will give you a chance to enjoy the mountain in a unique way. The routes stretch on more than 100 kilometers of stunning landscape and are connected to each other so you don´t have to stick to only one.

Located in the southwest part of the mountain you will also have the chance to visit one of the largest caves in Croatia - the Veternica cave. The cave is open for tourist from early spring until late fall. During the winter time visitors are not allowed in in order to protect the caves inhabitants during hibernation time - the bats. On that note, Medvednica nature park also offers you the chance to adopt a bat to help protect the species. :)


Bats are not the only ones seeking shelter in Veternica - Neanderthals were here too! In the cave a couple of Neanderthal skulls were discovered as well as primitive tools and traces of fire. One of the discovered remains is a part of the jaw of the cave bear (on display in the cave) - it is believed that the Neanderthals respected the cave bear as a sort of a spirit animal.


Approximately half an hour drive from the charming town of Samobor you will find the so called “Lungs of the City”. This is actually a popular name for the Zumberak-Samobor highlands nature park. It's safe to say that this area has both Panonian, Alpine and Dinaric characteristics (hills, steep mountains and karst) so the impact of humans and modern life was kept to a minimum due to the harsh terrain.

The area of the park is one of the least inhabited areas in Croatia due to the already mentioned harsh conditions. However, the locals still made it work and today you can still see traditional villages blending in perfectly with the surrounding countryside, pastures and forests. This is mostly the case in the central part of the park, where the terrain is a mixture of hills and valleys, with accessible fresh water and peaceful creeks.


The nature park is know for its abundance of plant and animal species - believe it or not, thanks to humans. Since the inhabitants of the area had to make room for pastures and meadows, some parts of the forest were cut which also made way for species that wouldn't have survived in the forrest. For instance, the park is the home of 38 orchid species, 6 of which are very rare.

In comparison to Medvednica, there aren't that many “typical attractions”, however the park with its stunning landscapes, creeks and peaks is an attraction in itself. This nature park attracts all those wanting to get away from the city and wanting to take a relaxing walk or a hike and enjoy beautiful sights of untouched nature.

The highest peak of Zumberak, the northwestern part, is Sveta Gera (1,178 m). Sveta Gera is a popular destination for both mountain climbers, hikers as well as pilgrims. When it comes to Samobor, the highest peak here is Japetic, 879 meters above sea level. On clear days from Japetic you can even enjoy the sight of the Triglav Mountain in the Slovenian Alps.


Due to the Alpine parts of the nature park, rock climbing is also a popular sport here. For rock climbers Okic is often the desired destination, where one of the oldest medieval noble cities in Croatia is located. Okic city (fortress) is one of the few examples of Romanesque architecture in continental Croatia. It's located just 5 km from the city of Samobor on the peak of Plesivica, a part of the park mostly known for its many vineyards scattered across the countryside.

History lovers will also find something for themselves here. Located in the central park of Zumberak, the Archeological park Budinjak offers two important sites: the prehistoric site in Budinjak (10th-6th century BC) and the one from Roman times (1st-2nd century) in Bratelji.

So take some time and visit central Croatia and its nature parks. Enjoy the fresh air, the forests, mountains and meadows and recharge your batteries in the best way possible - by spending time outdoors.

Marija Kancir

+385 1 222 70 50